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Over 6,000 people provided feedback to the report ‘A Future Together – Building a better GP and Primary Care Service’, which is intended to inform the development and planning of the new GP contract, making it one of the largest engagement initiatives undertaken by the HSE.

Launched today (13th November) by Minister for Health Simon Harris, the report was commissioned by the HSE’s Primary Care Division in an effort to assist the thinking required to provide a more patient-centred primary care service for patients and the healthcare system.

Key objectives of this report included; conducting an international, GP-focussed review of how primary care operates internationally, carrying out consumer research to provide an understanding of the patient experience of GP services and patient priorities, and doing qualitative interviews to get the views and insights of key individuals working in the wider healthcare system.

The National Association of General Practitioners (NAGP) has commended the body of work, particularly the HSE’s recognition that transitional funding is essential to support a move to GP-led primary care.

Dr Emmet Kerin, NAGP President, advised the Government to take note of the recommendations in this report and the all-part Sláintecare report as winter approaches.

The report supports the shift to patient-centred primary care services in Ireland., deeming the traditional model of hospital-dominated care as becoming unaffordable and inappropriate for modern society.

The research has also provided the HSE with a deeper understanding of consumer satisfaction levels, the priorities and concerns of current and future GPs, and the perspectives of a range of professionals working within and or close to the primary care field.

Welcoming the publication of today’s report, HSE Director General Tony O’Brien said: “The key message from this report is that, only through the appropriate development and expansion of the capacity of general practice in Ireland, can we provide the type of healthcare system that our society now needs.

He claimed that the report provides important information that will enable those working within the HSE, the political system, and in general practice to re-shape how primary care is provided to meet the needs of our changing population.

Professor Tom O’Dowd, Emeritus Professor of General Practice, Trinity College Dublin agreed that the research proves that investment in primary care leads to better health outcomes at lower costs.

He continued: “Freeing up GPs to spend more time on what they are trained to do requires orientating more nurses, physio, psychologists and social workers towards primary care. There is a lot of scope for investment in Irish primary care to enable it to play a full part in the healthcare system”.

The NAGP expressed relief upon reading that the report recognised that the percentage of the overall healthcare budget spent on general practice was extremely low by international standards and needs to increase.

Dr Kerin said: “This report outlines that Irish spending on general practice services is inadequate even to maintain services at current levels. However, we know that population needs are increasing.

“We must ensure that funding into general practice is increased as a matter of urgency, starting with reversal of the 38% cuts under FEMPI”.

Dr Kerin concluded by calling for a modern, fit-for-purpose GP contract that will allow flexibility and improved terms and conditions will to attract back and retain highly trained GPs.

He described progress on a new contract as being “frustratingly slow”, calling on the Minister for Health to intervene and instil a sense of urgency in the process.

Regarding the GP contract, Minister Simon Harris commented: “In relation to the GP contract I would like to see agreement reached with GP representatives in the coming months on significant service developments that can be introduced during 2018.

“This will be the start of a multi-annual change process that will enhance the role of primary care as the foundation of a more accessible and effective health service”.

The report was conducted by a team from Trinity College Dublin and led by Professor Tom O’Dowd, Emeritus Professor of General Practice who is also a practicing General Practitioner.

Primary research was undertaken by Coyne Research and a number of stakeholder engagements were carried out between October 2016 and May 2017.